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Center Stage

Behind every great man are women who hate him


‘9 to 5: The Musical’ is running at the Des Moines Playhouse until April 14.

‘9 to 5: The Musical’ is running at the Des Moines Playhouse until April 14.

In a story about women treated merely as objectified eye candy in the work place, it’s ironic that the men involved in “9 to 5: The Musical” comprise the minimal parts. The ladies take center stage from the curtain’s opening to its closing, while many talented male actors ease into the background as extras, used only when sets need casually changed from one scene to another or when the women need a hard body to bounce off for the many catchy and hilarious song-and-dance numbers. But that irony is sweet.

Anyone old enough to remember the movie on which this production is based likely associates the story first with its musical and lyrical composer, Dolly Parton, who played Doralee Rhodes, the sassy and sexy boss’ favorite for all the wrong reasons in the 1980 film. That part was well achieved by the blossoming Katy Merriman, who brings a mesmerizing energy to every role. She delivers a powerful performances of some of Parton’s best vocal works, including “9 to 5” and the cheeky “Backwoods Barbie,” where Merriman shows off her impressive lassoing skills.

“I’ve got a gun in my car, and I’ll change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!” she threatens the “sexist, lying, egotistical, hypocritical, bigot” of a boss, Mr. Franklin Hart Jr., after one too many unwelcomed sexual advances.

But not even Doralee’s hog-tying performance (she literally wraps the chauvinistic boss into a hog-tie and sparks a hostage situation managed by her and two equally frustrated colleagues) can outshine Megan Schettler Schug’s portrayal of the hardnosed, office role model Violet Newstead (originally played by comedic legend Lily Tomlin). Violet’s witty, undercutting comments almost breeze over the audiences’ heads and are especially lost on the arrogant bastard of a boss, Mr. Hart (Chris Ragner).

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Ragner’s inspired performance coaxes even the men in the audience to share in the ladies’ hate of him. So everyone roots for Doralee, Violet and the office newbie, Judy Bernly (Jill Ziegler) as they see their fantasies of killing their boss personified the next day in the form of a kidnapping that puts them in control of the executive desk at work. Only one woman in the office, Roz Keith, cares for the tyrant. She expresses her passion for the boss with a show-stopping chair dance and solo “Heart to Hart.” Performed by Melissa M. Kellar, Roz steals the spotlight with her uproarious, hip-thrusting and awkward molestation of the boss man’s vacant desk chair as she professes her secret love for the antagonist — easily one of the funniest scenes in the show.

But will her affection ever be returned by such a cold-hearted son of a bitch? And how long can the heroines keep their employer hostage before the detectives on the case discover the truth? Will Hart at least see the error of his asshole ways? Probably not.

“He’s a piece of shit,” one man in the audience whispers to his wife.

Exactly. CV

Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton

Book by Patricia Resnick

Directed by John W. Viars


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